Crowd Steering: Past & future a reference for Krishna Pushkaralu

Lavanya Addepalli
9 min readJun 24, 2016


Pushkar Mela/Pushkaram/Kumbh Mela is the mythological worshiping offered to 12 main rivers flowing across India. It takes 12 years of cycle for every river to have its turn. This has been observed from the time of medieval astrology where a sacred Brahman named “Pushkar” was granted a boon to clean one river each year, the selection of rivers was decided based on the transit of the Jupiter in the zodiac signs and Jupiter takes about 12 years to complete its one cycle around the planet earth, thus the 12 sacred rivers were picked. [1] Pushkar is followed for the 12 rivers, but Kumbh Mela is observed only for specific Pushkar Rivers. The Planet Earth is a rotating and revolving object that makes a centrifugal force from 0 to 33 degrees latitude, the force is vertical in nature and concentrated at the 11 degrees, it is believed the energies shoot straight upwards at a particular decided time of that particular day. The ancient brainy people happened to accumulate all the spots and set them as the energy source which happened to be the places where the rivers originate or flow. Hence bathing in those places gives the huge source of energy which is mythologicaly term as “punya” and those masses who have bathed in that holy water happen to attain “Mukti” free from sins. It comes as strange that nowhere else on the planet earth, such an intense gathering of population is observed. [2]

Crowd Intensity during the events

Millions of Hindu devotees gather on the banks of sacred rivers. In 2013, the river Ganga had its Pushkar and Kumbh Mela where about 120 million population participated over the period of 2 months in Allahabad. The recorded footfall on the main festive days was not less than 30 million in a day. The entire area occupied by this crowd was 20 square kilometers, making it the largest Human gathering on Earth. [3] The city of Allahabad has the resident population of 1.2 million. [7]

In 2015 the Simhastha Kumbh Mela in Nashik witnessed 100 million crowd at a stretch of 40 days. [5] Nashik is the city where the river Godavari originates and the Rajahmundry is the town where the same river ends and merges in the Bay of Bengal. The festive of Pushkar is celebrated in both place and Simhastha Kumbh is celebrated only in Nashik. Nashik City has witnessed over 3 million population during the peak hour of holy dip on one of the Shahi Snan (holy bathing) days. [5] The City population as per 2011 census is 1.5 million. [6] On the other hand in Rajahmundry the Pushkar is celebrated only for initial 12 days. The total crowd witnessed in those 12 days was about 16 million and maximum of 1 million at peak hours of holy dip. [8]

In April 2016, the river Kshipra in Ujjain celebrated the Ardh (half) kumbh. This also occurs once in every 12 years. It is only kumbh and not Pushkar similar to Ganga river ardh kumbh which occurs once on every 6 years. The festive is celebrated for a period of 30 days with 3 shahi snas (holy dip). This event had about 75 million crowd over all. [9]

Stampedes at Spiritual gatherings

When the crowd is massive and majority of the crowd is homeless during the spiritual festive it is and unquestioned alarm for stampedes and epidemic out breaks. In a pre-planned infrastructure like Mecca and Karbala it is much easier to anticipate and take care of the needs. Kumbh and other spiritual gatherings are spread across the area and are open air in nature, built on temporary infrastructure, which challenges the civic authorities’ big time. The count of casualties might be less but the injuries and the trauma is difficult to get over.

Crowd Gatherings and Disasters

How is the Crowd counted?

By far most efficient way of counting the crowd is by using the “thumb rule” were an area of 100 mts is taken and the every person is assumed to take 1.5 square feet of area, about 600 mts is the naked eye perception view and when calculated with the technique at most 4500 people happen to cover the area of visibility. Which questions the 120 million crowd count of Allahabad Kumbh in 2013. The authorities put it to 60–80 million of population have visited the festive. [4] The technique used is all assumptions and there is a call for an alternative logical and smart solution to break the tabo of assumptions.

Why did Nashik Not have any stampede?

Contradicting the post by R. Guha, “Why We Shouldn’t Be Surprised by the Kumbh Mela Stampede”, In the history of Kumbh Mela, The year 2015 Godavari, Kumbh Mela in Nashik had “ZERO” disaster of any kind and the crowd counting was much of scientific solution unlike traditional assumptions. The MediaLabs Head Dr Ramesh Rasker, his Team from MIT-USA and many prominent personalities around the globe started an initiative of Kumbhathon along with several tech savvies tossing a coin on “Modern technology meets ancient rituals at Nashik’s Simhastha Kumbh Mela” [14] by developing bunch of innovative projects covering several areas solving real world problems during mass gatherings. [15] One of the project among the flock is Crowd Management. The crowd management had two ground breaking solutions making an impact by providing real time crowd counting and the steering of crowd across the city.

Nilay Kulkarni and his team developed a solution Ashioto, footmats embedded with sensors and when the crowd steps on the mat its real time counter is incremented. This is one of the solutions that gives a correct and real time crowd footfall in an area irrespective of close or open environment. [16]

Lavanya Addepalli and her team developed a solution “Crowd Steering with GSM Mobile Pings” by acquiring the subscriber VLR (Visitor Location Register) counts from all the Mobile Towers located across the city [16]. Every active Mobile Tower has an attached BTS which is supposed to record the login pings of every GSM mobile with respect to Service Provider. As per TRAI India 1059.29 Million out of 1.2 Billion Indian population carry mobile devices. [17] More than 90% of the Indian Population carries mobile devices, a flat assumption that one person carries one mobile device and one person is registered at one tower at one time. The VLR counts provide quiet a real crowd count in the given geolocation.

Crowd Movement

Figure on the left explains the lay man understanding about people in vicinity of the mobile tower and the heatmap on the right shows crowd concentration as per the geographical locations. This is one of the by far best solutions that gives quite a concrete count of the crowd in the desired locations. With dedicated support of all the telecom operators in Nashik this project was a huge success and the Civic Authorities got a scientific evidence on an alternative crowd counting techniques.

Future Crowd Spiritual Massive Gatherings

The near future spiritual massive crowd gathering is expected in the regions of Andhra Pradesh for the river Krishna Pushkaralu. In the year 2004 about 30 million people attended the 12 days festival and in a stampede 5 people were killed leaving behind couple of the injured people. [18] It is been observed that the crowd doubles every Pushkaram. The same was observed with Godavari Pushkaram, 2015 in Nashik and Rajahmundry.

Krishna River Ghats

Massive spiritual gatherings are the cry for crowd management. The year 2016 has Pushkaralu / Kumbh Mela for the river Krishna. The pushkaralu are not like other kumbh Mela which last year long. The pushkaralu are performed for only 12 days stating from 12th August, 2016 till 23rd August, 2016. The major ghats are shown in the map above. The two extreme ghats are Punnami Ghats to Metla Bazar, Krishna Lanka Ghat. The distance covered is 12Km and in that distance there are several other ghats including the main Kanaka Durga Ghat just at the foot of Kanaka Durga Temple.

Crowd inflow is from all the coming directions towards Vijayawada. The two main transportation systems are Railways and RoadWays. The Places to be taped are shown below.

Incoming Routes

Two highways and three main line railways reach Vijayawada. Vijayawada being a junction and also several routes connect to different parts of the country. NH65 and NH16 are the two National Highways that connect and major road traffic reaches using these. Trains reach from Hyderabad & West via Warangal, Warangal also merges the trains from North India. Down South trains reach Vijayawada via Guntur and the east Indian railways connects to Vijayawada Via Vaizag. The native Krishna District Villages connect via Vuyyuru and several local highways.

In context to the manage crowd using the GSM Mobile pings in Vijayawada to a perimeter of location is to be decided and that is to be matched with the LAC of the Telecom Operators. The LACs are set of BTS and the VLR count from those BTS are to be processed to achieve the crowd dynamics.

Perimeter for gathering data geographically

The above marked location are located at a distance of about 30 km which gives a window of 30–45 mins to reach to the center of the city. Gathering the BTS VLR counts at real time will give real-time crowd dynamics which is definite challenge for telecom companies. A retrospective data with interval of 15–30 mins will solve the purpose and the ground team will get window of 30 mins minimum to take actions in case of heave crowd flow.

The haunting question “Are the Authorities prepared for the massive crowd management?” still remains unanswered.


[1]”Pushkaram”, Wikipedia, 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 22- Jun- 2016].

[2]”Kumbha Mela — The Greatest Gathering — The Isha Blog”, The Isha Blog, 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 22- Jun- 2016].

[3] The Kumbh Mela: The Largest Gathering On Earth”, WorldAtlas, 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 22- Jun- 2016].

[4] W. Staff, “How the Kumbh Mela Crowds Are Counted”, WSJ, 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 22- Jun- 2016].

[5] Kumbh Mela in Nashik — “The world’s largest city has no permanent address.” — MIT MEDIA LAB”, Medium, 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 22- Jun- 2016].

[6] “Nashik City Population Census 2011 | Maharashtra”,, 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 23- Jun- 2016].

[7] “Allahabad City Population Census 2011 | Uttar Pradesh”,, 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 23- Jun- 2016].

[8] “Godavari Maha Pushkaralu 2015 — Crowd Visualization”,, 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 23- Jun- 2016].

[9] “IISc Developing System to Make the Kumbh Mela Accident-Free”, The Better India, 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 23- Jun- 2016].

[10] R. Guha, “Why We Shouldn’t Be Surprised by the Kumbh Mela Stampede”, WSJ, 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 24- Jun- 2016].

[11] Disaster Management, “Report 2013”. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 24- Jun- 2016].

[12] List of India’s worst stampede tragedies”,, 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 24- Jun- 2016].

[13] “Puttingal temple fire”, Wikipedia, 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 24- Jun- 2016].

[14] “Modern technology meets ancient rituals at Nashik’s Simhastha Kumbh Mela”, News18, 2015. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 24- Jun- 2016].

[15] D. Sonal, “8 applications enabling a flawless Nashik Kumbh Mela”,, 2015. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 24- Jun- 2016].

[16] MIT. Redx, “Notable Stories”, Emerging Worlds, 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 24- Jun- 2016].

[17] “Press Release — Notifications: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India”,, 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 24- Jun- 2016].

[18] “Millions bathe in river at hindu festival in southern india —”,, 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 24- Jun- 2016].



Lavanya Addepalli

“Wandering Researcher” .. Student by profession... Human by heart with clusters in brain.. Travel & Music Lover, Foodie, Ghost Writer